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Guide to Turkish Greetings: Ways to Say Hello in Turkish

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When learning the Turkish language, how to say hello is one of the most essential things you’ll need to know.

You can say “Hello, how are you?” in Turkish in many different ways, and there are many Turkish ways to say hello. In Turkish, how to say hi is simply a matter of knowing which phrase to use and where to use it. In no time at all you can become such a confident Turkish speaker that you could walk into a smoky, dimly lit coffee shop in Istanbul and say hello in Turkish to a group of elderly gentlemen playing backgammon…

Then you could walk through a coastal park overlooking the Bosphorus and shout “hey” in Turkish to the hip youngsters gathered on a bench. Wouldn’t that be nice? By studying up on how to say hello in Turkey, you could conquer both worlds: the world of the traditional, formal person and that of the modernist, more relaxed youth.

In order to avoid awkwardness with either, it’s vital that you know the differences between the various ways of how to say hello in Turkish, both formally and informally. Fear not…we give you the ultimate guide! Here, you’ll find out how to say “Hello, how are you?” in Turkish vocabulary, how to say “hi” in Turkish, and many more common Turkish greetings!

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Table of Contents

  1. What is Hello in Turkish? The classical Merhaba
  2. Formal Greetings
  3. Informal Greetings
  4. Time-Specific Greetings
  5. Turkish Titles and Their Role in Greetings
  6. Alternative Greetings/Gestures
  7. Replying to a Greeting:
  8. Online or on the Phone
  9. The Next Step: How Do You Say “Hello, How are You?” in Turkish?
  10. Dialogue Playouts
  11. How Do You Say Hello in Turkish? It Matters.

1. What is Hello in Turkish? The classical Merhaba

Say Hello

The classical merhaba (hello in Turkish) is a good choice for almost any situation. Put “hello” in Turkish Google translate and that’s the first word you’ll get, not to mention this hello is most common in Turkish lessons, for good reason.

The word for hello in Turkish originates from the Arabic marhaban and is widely accepted as a Turkish greeting. It means “I receive you graciously / I welcome you.” You really can’t go wrong with a polite merhaba and a smile. The young and old, rich and poor, traditionalist and modernist alike use the phrase without a thought.

  • Merhaba
    • Meaning: “hello”
    • Sounds like mer-ha-ba
  • Merhabalar
    • Meaning: plural form of merhaba

You don’t have to pluralize merhaba when addressing a group of people, but it is acceptable to do so. It’s a linguistically interesting fact that if you’re addressing a group of people in Turkish, a singular merhaba is considered to be directed toward each and every person in the group.

2. Formal Greetings

Shakehands

After hello in Turkish, greetings are an important way of making a good first impression!

A good rule of thumb is to be formal whenever you’re in doubt. Turkish people are warm and welcoming, but they’re also traditional at heart and believe that the elderly and women should be respected. People who behave too relaxed or speak in a disrespectful manner are usually shunned, even by the young and rebellious.

In a formal setting, amongst people you’re not acquainted with, you may add an efendim (sir/madam)—which is not gender-specific—before or after merhaba.

  • Merhaba efendim
    • Meaning: Hello, Madam/Sir.
  • Efendim, merhaba
    • Meaning: Madam/Sir, hello.

To further your learning, here’s how to say goodbye in Turkish.

  • Tanıştığımıza memnun oldum (I’m pleased to meet you) is an elegant follow-up. If this is too much of a mouthful, just stick with memnun oldum (I’m pleased). It’s the same as saying “Pleasure” instead of “Pleasure to meet you.” You can think of this as a way to say “Hello, nice to meet you,” in Turkish.

3. Informal Greetings

1- Selam vs. Selamün aleyküm:

  • Selamün aleyküm is derived from the universal Muslim greeting Es selam’ün aleyküm, which means “May peace be upon you.” Because of its religious connotations, this phrase isn’t used widely in modern Turkey. Yet, it’s still acceptable in religious or traditional circles.
  • Selam literally means “peace” and it may be used among friends. This phrase is especially preferred by the younger generation, and is free of any religious connotations. It’s the equivalent of how to say “hey” in Turkish or “hi” in Turkish.

There’s no grammatical gender in either phrase. The former can be used when parting, as well.

2- The Plural Greeting Cümleten selamün aleyküm

Try this one and you’re sure to bring smiles and a whopping Ve Aleyküm selam! back from a group. It means “Peace be upon all of you,” and the recipients are expected to answer back in a chorus. You’ll most probably get extra credit for this one! It’ll make you sound like you have quite an advanced degree of knowledge of the Turkish language and culture.

4. Time-Specific Greetings

Depending on the time of day, you can greet people by wishing them a good day/evening/night. Even though it seems pretty straightforward, there are a few ways to do this.

A Man and a Sun

1- How do You Say Good Morning in Turkish? So Many Ways…

  1. Günaydın (Good morning): This phrase is accepted by all and is considered a modern phrase.
  2. Hayırlı sabahlar (May your mornings be blessed): This is an older phrase that’s more popular among traditionalists.
  3. Sabah şerifleriniz hayrolsun (May your blessed morning be full of goodness): This is a beloved Ottoman phrase that’s still used as a warm and polite greeting. Anyone will love you for saying this!
  4. İyi günler (Good day): We’ll look into this soon; this phrase can also be used at this time.
    • A nuance of the Turkish language: The plural is used when wishing well. The exact translation of the phrases with hayır (blessings) are “May your mornings/days/evenings/nights be full of goodness.” Phrases containing the word hayır are more readily appreciated by religious or traditional folk.

2- A Daytime Greeting:

İyi günler: This phrase is the equivalent of “Good day.” Evidently, it can be used during daylight hours. It’s a more formal greeting than merhaba. Actually, one might even come across as cold or formal if he/she uses it among close friends, though it is considered a modern Turkish phrase. It may be used as a greeting or when parting.

3- Good Afternoon in Turkish

Tünaydın (Good afternoon): The word tünemek means “to roost.” Tünaydın, therefore, means “May your roosting time be good or bright.” Or, “Good roosting time!?” This phrase is sometimes used by irritated teachers to poke fun at dozy students enjoying a lazy afternoon cat nap.

4- In the Evening

A Man and a Sunset

  • İyi akşamlar (Good evening): This is a polite greeting that may be used by anyone in any situation.
    In Turkish, we wish good evenings in the plural. Of course, we don’t use a phrase with aydın (bright) here because there’s little or no daylight at this time. There’s no equivalent of Günaydın (May your day be bright) for the evening.
  • Hayırlı akşamlar (May your evenings be blessed): This is a phrase used among the more traditional or older generation.
  • Akşam şerifleriniz hayrolsun (May your blessed evening be full of goodness): This one is a version of the above Ottoman Turkish phrase, and is also a polite alternative that can be used during the evening hours.

5- At Night

  • İyi geceler (Good night)
  • Hayırlı geceler (May your nights be blessed)

It’s totally up to you which phrase you use. They both mean the same thing, but traditional folk would prefer the latter.

  • Learning how to pronounce Turkish words isn’t that complicated. As you may have noticed above, there are a few sounds in the Turkish language that may not seem familiar (like ş and ü). But people aren’t that judgemental of language-learners and will appreciate your best efforts in trying to speak to them in their own language. It sparks national pride (wink, wink)!

5. Turkish Titles and Their Role in Greetings

How do you say hello in Turkish when talking to a male or female? Well, merhaba covers everyone, no matter what gender. But there are some gender-specific titles you should know.

Actually, Turks have an abundance of titles for people, especially relatives. It may take a serious boot camp to learn about all the different relationships and titles used for these people! But don’t worry. We won’t go into that much detail. Just the basic titles.

You could either repeat their name after the greeting, such as:

  • Merhaba Hakan Bey (Hello, Mr. Hakan) (first name + masculine title)
  • Merhaba Asu Hanım (Hello, Ms. Asu) (first name + feminine title)

or Merhaba and Mr/Mrs/Ms + surname

  • Merhaba, Bay Aslan. (title + surname/last name)
  • Merhaba, Bayan Ulvi. (title + surname/last name)

You may want to look further into honorifics.

Shakehands

6. Alternative Greetings/Gestures

Body gestures speak for themselves. The Turkish have their own specific gestures, which are quite elaborate.

  • When it comes to greetings, a slight nod of the head can mean “I acknowledge and salute you.” This is also a sign of respect for the other person.
  • The universal raised hand or wave is also acceptable. And if you know the other person well, wide open arms (referencing a good old hug) would be appreciated among friends.
  • There’s also the Turkish kiss on each cheek, a bit like the French la base. Yet one must remember to only kiss and hug those of the same gender. Although some people are okay with hugging/kissing the other gender, it’s not widely acceptable.

7. Replying to a Greeting:

Merhaba (Hello) or Sana da merhaba (Hello to you, too) are good replies to a casual merhaba. Other time-specific greetings such as good morning, good day, and good night, can be answered with the same phrase.

The only difference is in answering Selamun aleyküm. The answer would be Ve aleyküm selam (And may peace be upon you). It’s imperative that one replies to selamun aleyküm and doesn’t leave the person dangling.

8. Online or on the Phone

  • It’s an interesting fact that Turkish people don’t say merhaba when they answer the phone. Instead, they say alo which sounds a lot like the English “hello.”
  • When someone’s daydreaming or just lost in thought, their friends may say Alo?! jokingly, as if to wake him/her up. Or, someone might crudely shout out Alo! to draw attention to himself/herself. We wouldn’t recommend this, though!
  • How to write hello in Turkish: Unless you’re writing messages in an informal chat room, formal greetings such as İyi günler are a wiser choice for writing hello in Turkish email. Applying good grammar and sentence structure is important in formal communications.
  • In other, less formal cases, Selam or Merhaba are fine. Some people use Slm, the consonants in Selam, as a cute form of texting slang.

9. The Next Step: How Do You Say “Hello, How are You?” in Turkish?

Man

After greeting someone with a hello, it’s polite to ask further questions. Turkish people appreciate a good communicator and there’s always time for small talk. There are no gender-specific considerations in saying “Hello, how are you?” in Turkish. However, you will need to know the difference between how to say “How are you?” in Turkish formally and informally.

  • Merhaba, nasılsın? [formal]
  • Merhaba, nasılsınız? [informal]
  • There’s another little nuance here: Nasılsın? is a singular form question, whereas Nasılsınız? is plural. This plurality may be confusing, but it’s similar to the royal “we” or majestic plural in English. The plural is used to show respect to your partner in conversation. Respect for the elderly and ladies is a major component of Turkish culture.
  • Unlike the formal English “How do you do?” which doesn’t always require a direct answer, the Turkish Nasılsınız? requires an answer. Generally, the reply is:

    İyiyim, siz nasılsınız? (I’m fine, how are you?).

  • Among friends, Nasılsın? (How are you?) and İyiyim, ya sen? (I’m fine, and you?) makes for a more informal conversation.
  • It’s also a nice gesture to thank the person who asked how you’re doing.

10. Dialogue Playouts

Here’s a little bit of example dialogue to show you the proper usage of greetings and how to reply to them.

1- [Formal] Ali greets a new customer, Naz.

  • Ali: Merhaba efendim. (Hello, Madam.)
  • Naz: Merhabalar. (Hello)
  • Ali: Nasılsınız? (How are you?)
  • Naz: İyiyim, teşekkürler. Siz nasılsınız? (I’m fine, thank you. How are you?)
  • Ali: Ben de iyiyim. (I’m fine too.)

Here, Ali is clever to add an efendim (Madam) after he says Merhaba. Thus, he comes across as polite, respectful, and formal. Also, he uses the plural Nasılsınız? although the recipient is one person. This, too, shows his reverence.

Further, Naz replies with a plural and respectful Merhabalar and Siz nasılsınız?

Overall, it’s a very polite, formal conversation.

2- [Informal] Emel and Sema are good friends that bump into each other on the street.

  • Emel: Selam Sema! (Hi, Sema)
  • Sema: Aa! Selam! (Oh! Hi!)
  • Emel: N’aber? (What’s up?)
  • Sema: İyilik. Senden n’aber? (Everything’s fine. What’s up with you?)

Everything is pretty informal between these two young friends. Emel uses the popular Selam (Hi or hello), while Emel counteracts with the famous wide-mouthed Aa! which is an expression of surprise, often exaggerated. Ne haber? (What is the news?) is reduced to N’aber? (What’s up?).

A good response to this question is iyilik, which literally means “goodness, wellness” as a shortcut for saying “Everything is going well.”

11. How Do You Say Hello in Turkish? It Matters.

Although linguistic and cultural nuances may seem like “small” matters, they’re not trivial. Paying attention to the points we went over in this article can make you sound like an expert and save you from awkward situations. You’ll gain great respect and show that you value people. Follow our tips and you’ll shine among your Turkish friends and colleagues.

Once you’ve mastered Turkish greetings, you can easily learn a few common phrases that are used repeatedly in daily life. Although these sayings may seem ordinary, daily language for natives, coming from you, these phrases will hook your component and amaze the crowds.

TurkishClass101.com will help you learn the proper salutations to use in specific situations. You’ll have confidence speaking Turkish in any situation. To learn more about our courses, check out our short introductory YouTube video or jump in and watch a live streaming video.

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Until next time, readers, let us know what you learned in this article. Do you feel more comfortable about Turkish greetings, or are there some “hello” in Turkish phrases you’re still unclear on? We’d love to hear from you!

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